At midday, my old friend W—— and I packed sandwiches and water, got into his canoe and paddled up the Concord River, and paddled upstream. It wasn’t as hot as yesterday, but it still was in the 90s. Sometimes we’d catch a light breeze, depending on where we were along the bends of the river. The hot sun was straight above us, and there was no shade except over water too shallow for us to paddle in. We saw Daniel Chester French’s statue of the Minuteman, passed under the Old North Bridge, passed the replica of the boat house where Nathaniel Hawthorne had tied up the rowboat he bought from Henry Thoreau,* and at last got to the confluence of the Assabet and Sudbury Rivers, which is the beginning of the Concord River.

“Which way do you want to go?” I asked Will. He didn’t have an opinion, so I suggested we got up the Assabet River because it was likely to be shadier. We passed some people fishing, and I asked them if they were catching anything. “Nothing,” they said, “just a few little sunfish. It’s too hot.” They were standing waist-deep in the water to keep cool.

The Assabet River is narrow, and just a little way up it we were in the shade. We went up stream just a short way before it got too shallow to go any further. We drifted downstream until we found a bend in the river that was in the shade, and which also caught the desultory breeze. Fish swam under us, and a Spotted Sandpiper bobbed on the opposite bank. It was the perfect place to beat the heat, and we talked about our families for a good hour until it was time to drift back downstream to where we put in.

* For my Unitarian Universalist readers, French, Hawthorne, and Thoreau were all raised as Unitarians, although Thoreau resigned from his church in his early twenties.